Five Dollars, Five Ways: Dollar Store Activities for Kids – Water Beads {Series}


Five Dollars, Five Ways is a series that explores a variety of activities for your kiddos based on a trip to the dollar store with a five dollar budget. We show you  how to maximize a few bucks for hours of fun and entertainment!

If you haven’t played with water beads yet, you have to do so right now. Immediately. Seriously—get some as soon as you can! Water beads are slick and slippery with a taut surface. Apply a fair amount of pressure, and they will burst and split. My son likes to say that a bowl of water beads and a bowl of eyeballs probably feel the same. (Boys—am I right?) These little suckers are one of my family’s all-time favorite playtime activities. We use them at home as well as when traveling. In fact, I believe we have played with them in three different states!








Water beads are usually found in the crafting/floral section at our local dollar store. Often, they are available already hydrated in a canister, but are also be sold dry in a flat plastic package. Sometimes the flat packages contain just one pack of water beads, but there are also packages that contain bonus packs (one each of three different colors). You can also sometimes find water beads in craft kits in the kids’/toys section. Spend a dollar on water beads, and you have four dollars (of our five dollar budget) available to purchase cups, bowls, measuring spoons, trucks, boats, or whatever else strikes your fancy to use with them. If you don’t have a dishwashing tub/basin, I would use a dollar to get that as well.


If you buy the hydrated water beads in the canister, pour them in your dish tub, and you are ready to go! If you buy the dry water beads, remove them from all packaging, dump in your dish tub, cover with several inches of water, and let them sit over night.


Water beads are fun in water as well as drained. The sensation of touching the beads and the visual aspects of the beads are different based on whether or not they are in water.


Whether your kids enjoy scooping several beads or lifting them one at a time, moving beads from one container to another, or simply letting the beads slip through their fingers, the possibilities for play are endless!


Here are some activities to get you started:

Activity 1: Sensory Play

Because of their awesome texture, water beads are a great sensory experience. Encourage your child to pick up the water beads and let them slip through their fingers. Show them how to move the water beads from hand to hand. Take turns handing each other a water bead, then two water beads, and so on. Put on some thin latex or rubber gloves.  How do the beads feel now?

Activity 2: Treasure Hunt

Hide small plastic toys, buttons, or beads throughout the water beads and let your children to go on a treasure hunt. Make the hunt more challenging by allowing your children to dig for treasure using only a spoon, tongs, or tweezers.

Activity 3: Alien Bath Time

Add hydrated water beads to your child’s bath. Make it especially extraterrestrial (or spooky) by tossing in a glow stick as well. Have your children scoop out the beads after bath to help make clean up easier for you!

Activity 4: Water Bead Math

Ask your child math questions as they play with the water beads. How many clear water beads are there? How many blue? How many green? How many total water beads are there? How many water beads can we fit in this bowl, glass, etc.?

Activity 5: Water Bead Experiments

What happens if you freeze a water bead? What happens if you put one in boiling water (with adult supervision)? What does a water bead look like when it dries? Can you rehydrate it?


When my first grader is home and playing in the water beads with the two-year-old, we’ve stretched the usage of the same water beads for days and even weeks. Alone with the water beads, my two-year-old played for quite awhile. It was long enough for me to drink some coffee, take some pictures for this post, feed the baby, and play around on my phone. Once she was done though, she was done. This is our back stoop, mess and all. Water beads every where. Cups, spoons, and bowls every where.  After this picture, she started smashing them like she was making wine. Good thing they only cost $1!



Check back next week for more $5 dollar store activities!


  1. We tried it out this weekend and my kiddos loved it. I threw in some mini dinosaurs and gave them some small kitchen tongs and ladles. They spent hours playing paleontologist.

  2. […] Those jumbo clothespins I said you had to have? Here’s why. They make the best blanket forts. We’ve tried many blankets and chairs and these clothespins consistently work well. None have broken yet, and after buying our first pack, I went back and bought a second pack so we could have even more fun. I’ve seen similar items specifically for forts sold online, and they were much more expensive. These are probably my favorite dollar store find of all time (well, besides water beads)! […]


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